Editorial: Wendy's application to serve alcohol thin end of the wedge
EDITORIAL: There was great excitement when Wendy's first came to town.
For weeks before the chain finally opened its Hereford St, Christchurch, outlet in late 2010, fans were eagerly anticipating the event and carefully scrutinising the online menu. Others less keen on fast food were totting up the calories of their offerings.
Wendy's was only operating out of its central Christchurch premises - the first in the South Island at that time - for a few weeks before the Boxing Day earthquake damaged them. The February 22, 2011 quake finished the building off and a replacement restaurant opened in Hornby in November 2013.
Since then, the store has been dispensing its burgers - including the "Chicken Chompa" and the fearsomely named "Son of Baconator" - its french fries, baked potatoes, salads and soft drinks to appreciative customers, many of them teenagers, without incident. Until this week that is, when it became known that Hornby Wendy's has applied for a liquor licence that, if successful, will allow customers to drink alcohol in the restaurant any day of the week between 8am and 11pm.
This is the first attempt by a fast-food chain in this country to bring liquor into its premises and, even if it fails, we can be certain it will not be the last. Other outlets will be watching the progress of this application closely, although McDonald's Restaurants says it is not considering such a move. The company which runs KFC and Pizza Hut, the NZX-listed Restaurant Brands, has chosen not to comment at this stage.
Wendy's is family-owned and operated in New Zealand but is part of a worldwide business which has more than 6600 restaurants. There are 20 outlets in the North Island and two in the South Island - the other in South Dunedin.
New Zealand chief executive Danielle Lendich justifies the liquor application by comparing Wendy's with "other family and quick-service restaurants" which have alcohol licences, including Valentines, Denny's and Lone Star.
Lendich says only people buying food to eat in the restaurant would be allowed to choose from a limited choice of low-alcohol drinks - mostly beers and ciders. "We have no intention of becoming a bar or hangout where people sit all night and drink beer," she says.
The application has, unsurprisingly, been condemned widely by community groups and local leaders. Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora says his straw polling of the neighbourhood shows "everyone is absolutely appalled". Christchurch West Information Hub co-ordinator Kirstin Dingwall-Okoye is most worried at the impact of selling liquor on a business which aims to be "family friendly", is a popular venue for school children and employs them as part-time workers.
We agree that serving alcohol in a fast-food shop is a step too far.
If this were to be approved, it would set a worrying precedent. Making alcohol more accessible to teenagers is a backward step.
New Zealand already has a poor reputation for its booze culture and in terms of teenage binge drinking we are among the world's worst. National addiction centre director Doug Sellman has long argued that the nation's drinking culture can only be changed if alcohol is made harder to get with fewer outlets and higher prices. This move risks taking the community in the opposite direction.
The public has a chance to have its say before submissions close on November 6.